Available On: PC, Xbox One, and PS4
Developer: 5 Bit Games
Publisher: Bandai Namco Ent.
Genre: First-Person Shooter/Platformer
Official Site: www.deadcore-game.com
Release Date: July 14, 2017
Where To Buy: Steam, Playstation Store, Xbox Live Marketplace
It’s not often that a game can immediately throw me into a familiar nostalgia for a game I loved when I was growing up. The first of these was Shovel Knight and how familiar it felt to the games of the NES era. In Yooka-Laylee, I got a taste of the Banjo world I missed so much. Even in Overwatch, my current obsession, I feel a callback to the old days of playing Halo 2 with my friends, staying up late into the night with “one more game” syndrome. And with Deadcore, I immediately felt a sense of being back in the world of Portal.
Deadcore is a first-person shooter and platformer developed by 5 Bit Games. You the player are seemingly trapped at the bottom of an enormous tower and must leap, climb, and battle your way to the top using nothing but your wit, your momentum, and a handy plasma gun you pick up along the way. As you ascend the tower, the challenges and obstacles get more difficult and intensive, just as you will with experience.
The gameplay in Deadcore will feel fairly familiar to anyone who has played Portal, as you will find yourself navigating a fairly simplistic terrain in the first map. Each section you complete will have a checkpoint, and from there you take on the next set of challenges. As you progress, you pick up your gun that interacts with certain aspects of the map, as well as new abilities that help you jump higher, move farther, and progress to the next checkpoint. All the movement seems designed to be used for speedrunning, as each jump and stride is fluid and encourages the player to find the shortest route between start and finish, between checkpoint to checkpoint.
In each map are also data pickups that start to give you a sense of the environment your being kept in. These act as the primary story teller in the game, and are a pretty cryptic and interesting way of letting you in on the bizarre circumstances your character is in. But the more important aspect of this is that it encourages the player to look at the map not as linear but as a sandbox. Since most of these pickups are hidden in locations not on the beaten path, the only way to get the full story is to disobey this simulation and break the rules by climbing to places you shouldn’t be. This is in itself is an incredible way of using the environment to make the player feel more in charge in a powerless circumstance.
The difficulty curve definitely shows up when you are able to shift gravity in certain areas. Around stage 5, you are able to use your gun to turn the gravity in specifically marked areas to traverse previously inaccessible areas. While this is an awesome mechanic when it works, it’s increasingly difficult to use and could even be disorienting and nauseating at points. It’s enough to make or break the player from continuing through, while the previous levels had a fairly comfortable curve of difficulty and encouraged the player to keep pushing. This mechanic was either one you understood or one that would cause you to stop playing.
There were also a few point of irritation that came up along the way with technical glitches. While getting certain keys would unlock white-ed out areas of the map, the checkpoints for those maps still were accessible. After landing on those checkpoints, the player is essentially trapped in a death spiral where you spawn and can’t access any more platforms. The only way out of this is to restart the entire level and lose all progress. The bigger issue with this isn’t just that it’s a glitch and it’s annoying; it’s that it completely negates the above point of giving players a sense of control and exploration. All the good the game does to encourage you to break the rules are negated when breaking the rules means starting over completely for doing so.
The only other thing to note is that in sections that require you to jump between laser grids is an incredibly tenuous obstacle in Deadcore. The hit boxes for your character and the laser are so close that you’re pretty much limited to guessing where and when it’ll hit you. Once again, it’s not so much the irritation as the bending of one of the good parts about the game: the pushing for speed running. By making one of your obstacles such a chance encounter, it encourages the player to play it safe rather than feel empowered.
Verdict: In the end, I still enjoyed my time with Deadcore. Even after getting into a death loop for exploring, I still chose to keep exploring. Even after battling laser grids, I still kept speeding my way through the levels. And even after the nausea and irritation of gravity changes, I still kept moving from start to finish. The game has its flaws and its shortcomings, but fluid movement and a growing confidence in my abilities kept me pushing forward. I like Deadcore a lot, not just for giving me that same taste of Portal, but for an interesting, fast-paced experience that I didn’t expect.
- Fast-paced, fluid movement, encouraging speed running
- Dynamic environment that encourages exploration and freedom of movement
- Interesting, under-the-nose story
- High difficulty curve
- Glitches that discourage exploration
- Challenges that discourage speed running